A group of four marijuana businesses, including a multi-state operator, has sued U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, arguing that the federal ban on marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Thursday. The plaintiffs include retailer Canna Provisions, Treevit delivery service CEO Gyasi Sellers, cultivator Wiseacre Farm, and multi-state operator Verano Holdings Corp. They claim that the federal ban on growing, making, distributing, or possessing marijuana within state borders is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit asks the court to rule that the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional when applied to the intrastate cultivation, manufacturing, possession, and distribution of marijuana according to state law.
The plaintiffs aim to bring the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. They have hired well-known law firm Boies Schiller Flexner to represent them.
Similar challenges to the federal Controlled Substances Act have been unsuccessful in the past. A notable example is the 2005 Supreme Court case Gonzalez vs. Raich, in which the Court ruled that Congress has the power to ban marijuana federally under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, despite state laws allowing the cultivation and sale of cannabis.
Since that ruling, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use marijuana, and the federal government has allowed a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry to flourish.
Boies said in a statement on Thursday that the Department of Justice and Congress have chosen not to intervene in state-licensed marijuana markets, which changes the facts that led to the 2005 Supreme Court ruling.
“The Supreme Court has since clarified that the federal government does not have the authority to regulate commerce that is purely intrastate in nature,” Boies added.
Verano President Darren Weiss said the company is prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court to align federal law with Congress’ actions over the years.
Weiss added that while the Biden administration’s efforts to reschedule marijuana would help solve marijuana operators’ federal tax problems, neither rescheduling nor modest Congressional reforms like the SAFER Banking Act address the fundamental issue.